Category: History

J. Edgar Hoover – Some Surprising Facts You May Not Know!

J. Edgar Hoover is an interesting character.  The fact that he was the head of the FBI and able to stay in office for decades, that even President’s feared him, and that he had “the goods” on anyone who was anyone has always intrigued me.  He wasn’t a good guy and there are many rumors that surround his personal life. 

Scott Beggs touches on many of these things and more in 20 Surprising Facts About J. Edgar Hoover.  Before you click over, here are three of my favorites and my thoughts on each…

.J. EDGAR HOOVER DIDN’T HAVE A BIRTH CERTIFICATE UNTIL HE WAS 43.  (This was the same year his mother died and there is speculation “that Hoover, who persecuted Black civil rights leaders, had a secret African-American heritage.” Wouldn’t that be something?  I wonder if the rumors are true. – Craig)

RICHARD NIXON WAS AFRAID OF J. EDGAR HOOVER.  (Hoover apparently had “dirt” on every President and they were afraid to fire him.  It is especially telling that “Richard Nixon, thought Hoover might ‘bring down the temple’ if he were sacked.”  We have learned over the years the indiscretions of many of our Presidents but Hoover had the goods at the time. – Craig)

J. EDGAR HOOVER HAD WHAT WAS POSSIBLY THE WORLD’S LARGEST COLLECTION OF PORNOGRAPHY. (Reportedly it contained photos of celebrities and politicians. The craziest rumor about it: That it contained nude pictures of Eleanor Roosevelt given to him by W.C. Fields!?  Really??  Also, why would he keep the collection — perhaps for his own enjoyment or more likely to have something on these folks should he ever need to it. – Craig)

“9/11: One Day in America” – The Trailer is Here!

Below we have the trailer for 9/11: One Day in America.  I plan to watch the mini-series.

9/11.  If you’re old enough you know exactly where you were when you learned about the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.  Seeing images brings back memories of that terrible day.  Yet in the days that followed I never felt our country come together more.  It is sad that it sometimes takes a tragedy to bring us together.  

Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, the six-part limited series 9/11: One Day in America will premiere August 29 at 9/8c National Geographic

“The One and Only Dick Gregory” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I like both the poster and trailer to The One and Only Dick Gregory.  I don’t have Showtime, but am interested in seeing this documentary at some point.  I know very little about Dick Gregory, other than he was an activist.  The clips of his standup comedy were funny and he appears to have been for the betterment of all.  We need more of that..

In writer-director Andre Gaines’ THE ONE AND ONLY DICK GREGORY, extraordinary archival footage and new interviews put a spotlight on this icon’s journey from influential comedian to on-the-ground activist — which is discussed by modern legends including Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, and Wanda Sykes, along with commentary from Harry Belafonte, W. Kamau Bell, Lawrence O’Donnell, Gregory’s wife Lillian Gregory, Medgar Evers’ wife Dr. Myrlie Evers-Williams, and others. Most essential is Dick Gregory himself, whose insights before he died in 2017 provide a crucial through line to what Gregory gave voice to during the Civil Rights era — and which continue to be vital today. Watch the premiere on Sunday, July 4 at 9/8c on SHOWTIME.

The History of the Hollywood Movie Poster & Six Legends Who Made Them Video!

If you’re interested in the history of movie posters, movie poster design and some of the legends in the field, then this video is for you.  If you’re not interested in history of posters but want to jump in to learn about Hollywood movie posters, then skip ahead to the 4 minute mark.  If you’re here for the movie poster legends (Bill Gold, Saul Bass, Bob Peak, Richard Amsel, Drew Struzan and John Alvin) then fast-forward to 11:23.

The Movie Poster has been around since the beginning of the Movies – in this course we will explore the earliest history of poster making and Lithography, the monopoly of Hollywood movie poster production by the National Screen Service and look at the artwork of influential artists working the field of poster design.

Thanks to Papa Stas for the heads-up.

Burger Chef: Reasons We Miss You!

If you’re old enough to remember Burger Chef restaurants, you probably miss them.  I used to be surprised at how much love the fast food joints had built up with those that ate there.  The first Burger Chef opened in 1954 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  By their peak year in 1973, there were over 1,000 locations throughout the US and Canada.  Less than 15 years later the last Burger Chef closed.  

The fine folks at MeTV posted 10 Reasons We Really Miss Burger Chef Restaurants.  Before you click over, here are thoughts on three of my favorites…

The Works Bar.  Burger Chef was the first to come up with the idea of a works bar.  It contained all the items you could want for your sandwich – lettuce, pickles, onion, tomato, as well as condiments.  This allowed customers to customize to perfection.  We had customers who would come in, order a sandwich and drink then would go to the works bar and make a salad using the items for sandwiches.  

Star Wars Posters.  Burger Chef was ahead of the other fast food joints when they began including Star Wars posters with the purchase of a meal.  If you don’t know my Mike Kott/Burger Chef/Star Wars posters story, it’s worth a click over.

The Big Shef (and Fun Meals).  The Big Shef was Burger Chef’s signature sandwich.  It was basically a Big Mac without sesame seeds, pickles, onions or special sauce (Thousand Island dressing).  What was their true claim to fame were Fun Meals. geared towards kids. Each Funmeal came with a sandwich, small fries, small drink and a toy! Five years later McDonalds started serving Happy Meals using the same concept.

I worked at Burger Chef for a couple of years while in college.  Those were fun times.  Yeah, I miss Burger Chef restaurants.  

Al Capone: Interesting Trivia You May Not Know!

Sean Hutchinson at Mental Floss recently posted 17 Facts About Al Capone.  You know the drill, before you click over, here are three of my favorites and my thoughts on each…

AL CAPONE GOT THE NICKNAME SCARFACE FROM A BARROOM FRACAS. (It’s not surprising to note that Capone hated the nickname Scarface.  Even more interesting is that he preferred friends to call him Snorky.  Somehow Snorky doesn’t seem as threatening as Scarface, and you can be sure if Capone was around and he wanted to be called Snorky, Snorky it would be. – Craig)

AL CAPONE’S “CHICAGO OUTFIT” MADE A LOT OF MONEY.  (Reportedly Capone’s outfit made $100 million in 1920.  Today the equivalent would be $13,352,700,000.00.  That’s 13 Billion plus dollars!  Wowzers! – Craig)

AL CAPONE RAN A SOUP KITCHEN DURING THE DEPRESSION.  (You’d think that this showed that Capone had a good heart.  Remember this was the same guy who beat to death three men with a baseball bat after serving them dinner, and the same guy who killed or had killed many, many people.  The soup kitchen was done to win public good will for his upcoming trial! – Craig)

“An Unknown Compelling Force: The True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

The poster and trailer for An Unknown Compelling Force are here. 

The Dyatlov Pass Incident really happened.  In 1959, 9 experienced Russian hikers were found dead, inadequately dressed for the snowy, freezing mountain temperatures.  Investigation revealed that they had cut their way out of the tent and fled their camp site.  From their remains, it was determined that six died from hypothermia, while three met strange, violent deaths.  Two had major damage to their skulls, two had severe chest trauma, two bodies were missing their eyes, one of the bodies had its tongue removed, one was missing its eyebrows.  The initial investigation determined that a “compelling natural force” was the cause of the hikers’ deaths.  Speculation grew that there had been a coverup… that it was a Yeti, or aliens, a Russian government experiment or, well, you get the idea.

I like the poster and the trailer isn’t bad either.  I’m familiar with the The Dyatlov Pass Incident and what really happened, but I just may give An Unknown Compelling Force a view to see if I can learn more.

The truth of Russia’s greatest unsolved mystery, the Dyatlov Pass Incident, is uncovered in this compelling documentary. Available June 15th. Order Now:

In 1959 a group of nine student hikers were attempting a difficult winter expedition in the remote Ural Mountains of Russia, when a mysterious event lead to their horrific deaths, shocking the nation.

The Soviet Government and fellow students uncovered the grizzly remains of the hikers. Found a mile from their shredded tent, the hikers seemingly fled into the freezing temperatures without their winter clothes or boots. Adding to the mystery, many of their bodies had suffered brutal and inexplicable injuries, and some even showed traces of radiation.

The investigators at the time closed the case, stating that the hikers died from “An Unknown Compelling Force.” For more than 60 years the story has been shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories, suggesting everything from UFOs and murder to a Soviet Government cover-up.

This documentary features interviews with Russian investigators, a former Moscow Times journalist, and friends of the hikers. Adding new perspective to the case, the film also interviews U.S. experts including a former FBI Agent, to finally reveal the stunning truth of The Dyatlov Pass Incident.

DIRECTED BY Liam Le Guillou
FEATURING Liam Le Guillou, Svetlana Oss, Yuri Kuntsevich, Oleg Demyanenko, Natalia Sakharova & Mick Fennerty

Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? by Eric Powell and Harold Schechter is Coming!

It seems that everyone has heard of Charles Manson, The Boston Strangler, Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy, The BTK Killer, and other infamous psychos.  Not as many folks have heard of Ed Gein.  Gein is a true life wacko who inspired Psycho (the book and film), The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and even The Silence of the Lambs (book and film).  Eric Powell is teaming with Harold Schechter to tell Ed Gein’s story.  Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:

One of the greats in the field of true crime literature, Harold Schechter (Deviant, The Serial Killer Files, Hell’s Princess), teams with five-time Eisner Award-winning graphic novelist Eric Powell (The Goon, Big Man Plans, Hillbilly) to bring you the tale of one of the most notoriously deranged serial killers in American history, Ed Gein.

Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done? is an in-depth exploration of the Gein family and what led to the creation of the necrophile who haunted the dreams of 1950s America and inspired such films as Psycho, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs.

Painstakingly researched and illustrated, Schechter and Powell’s true crime graphic novel takes the Gein story out of the realms of exploitation and gives the reader a fact-based dramatization of these tragic, psychotic and heartbreaking events. Because, in this case, the truth needs no embellishment to be horrifying.

If this sounds like something you’d like, you can use this link to pre-order Did You Hear What Eddie Gein Done?

Here’s an interview with Eric Powell on the killer behind the monster in DID YOU HEAR WHAT EDDIE GEIN DONE?

“The Sons of Sam” Trailer is Here!

True life murder mystery documentaries are “in” now (have they ever been out?) and The Sons of Sams: A Descent into Darkness could be the next “must-see” one.  I’m old enough to remember when the Son of Sam murders gripped the country and relief when the killer was caught… but did he act alone?

A closed case is only the beginning. The Sons of Sam: A Descent Into Darkness is only on Netflix May 5.

The Son of Sam case grew into a lifelong obsession for journalist Maury Terry, who became convinced that the murders were linked to a satanic cult.

Pony Express – Facts You May Not Know!

When I was a kid Cowboys were king. Westerns dominated movie and television screens. Cowboys even regularly appeared in comic books. Kids loved tales of the West. There were so many heroes and we knew their names. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, Bat Masterson, and Wild Bill Hickock just to name a few.

What’s interesting is that there was another group of real-life western heroes — Pony Express Riders. We all knew how they rode the mail across hostile country (weather, terrain and Indians) at breakneck speed, only stopping after they’d ridden dozens of mile and only after they had passed the mail on to the next rider.

Its interesting that what we think we knew about the Pony Express is often wrong.  Evan Andrews addresses this in post 10 Things You May Not Know About the Pony Express.  Before you click over, here are three of my favorites and my thoughts on each…

2. It was a financial flop.  (I really never thought about the financial aspect of running the Pony Express.  There’s the cost and upkeep of the horses.  Paying the riders as well as those that ran the relief stations and the cost of keeping them stocked.  Estimates run as high as $200,000.00 were lost for the investors behind the Pony Express. That translates to about $6.5 million today.  Keep in mind the Pony Express was only in operation for about one and a half years! That is another fact that blows many people’s minds. – Craig)

8. Riders didn’t have the deadliest job on the Pony Express. (I found this to be a surprising fact.  More relief station workers were killed than Pony Express Riders.  The relief stations were in remote locations and vulnerable to attacks by bandits and Indians at war.  – Craig)

7. One rider completed a 380-mile run in less than two days.  (Most Pony Express riders rode about 75 miles making horse changes along the way.  They would they pass off the mail and rest up for their next trip.  Robert “Pony Bob” Haslam had ridden his route but the next rider refused to take the mail on.  Paiute Indians had been attacking relief stations and the rider was afraid to head into their territory.  Haslam grabbed the mail, jumped on a fresh mount and completed the run!  After delivering the mail and a brief rest, Haslam completed the return trip, a total of 380 miles in less than 40 hours! – Craig)

“No Ordinary Man: The Billy Tipton Documentary” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

Here we have the poster and trailer for No Ordinary Man: The Billy Tipton Documentary.

Billy Tipton was an American musician who played in jazz bands from the 1930s through 1950.  In 1951, he formed the Billy Tipton Trio (along with Dick O’Neil and Kenny Richards).  The trio’s popularity earned them a contract for two albums: Sweet Georgia Brown and Billy Tipton Plays Hi-Fi on Piano.  The records did well enough for a new four album contract, but surprisingly, Tipton declined the offer.  Tipton instead moved to Spokane, where he became a talent agent and performed occasionally.  Tipton retired from music in the late 1970s.

Over the years Tipton had several different woman who went under the title Mrs. Tipton, but the title was without legal standing since he didn’t marry any of them.  In the early 60s, Tipton and one of his “wives” adopted 3 sons.

In 1989, as paramedics worked to save Billy Tipton’s life, they discovered he was a female!   Sadly, the paramedics were unable to save Billy Tipton.

The story that Billy Tipton was actually a woman who lived life as a man undetected by his fellow musicians, his children and even his “wives” made national news.  In 1989, there was little discussion in the main stream media about transgender people, so Billy Tipton’s story was shocking.  Truth be told, it would probably still be considered shocking.  I remember when the story broke about Billy Tipton and I couldn’t understand how so many people close to Billy would have no idea of his secret.

For decades, the life of American Jazz musician, Billy Tipton, was framed as the story of an ambitious woman passing as a man in pursuit of a music career. In No Ordinary Man, Tipton’s story is re—imagined and performed by trans artists as they collectively paint a portrait of an unlikely hero. Together, the filmmakers join Tipton’s son, Billy Jr. to reckon with a complicated and contested legacy: how do you tell the story of someone who was hiding in plain sight yet desperate to be seen? On demand April 2nd.

RIP: Lou Ottens

It has just been announced that Lou Ottens has died at the age of 94.  If Mr. Ottens name doesn’t ring a bell, don’t fell bad.  Mr. Ottens wasn’t famous, but I promise if you’re a certain age, you’ll appreciate his invention because of the hours you spent with it and the enjoyment it brought you.

Mr. Ottens invited the first cassette tape!

Mr. Ottens wanted music to portable, assessable and affordable.  He succeeded on all counts.  I can remember how exited I was to get my first cassette player and blank tapes.  If you’re of a certain age, I’m sure you remember making mix tapes for different occasions and friends.  How cool was it to be able to take your music with you and play it anywhere?  Very cool.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lou Ottens’ family, friends and fans.

Muhammad Ali: Kinshasa 1974 – “The Rumble in the Jungle”

Muhammad Ali: Kinshasa 1974 is a new graphic novel that combines the famous Abbas photographs with a story by writer JD Morvan and artist Rafael Ortiz that gives context to the pictures.  Abbas was in Kinshasa, Zaire to photograph the political unrest at the same time the famed Rumble in the Jungle fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman took place.  As things worked out Abbas was able to chronicle events leading up to an including the fight.

Muhammad Ali: Kinshasa 1974 is an interesting idea and looks like a well done book.  If you’d like to see more than the cover above and preview page below, click over to an interview with JD Morvan which provides more insight and preview pages.  If you’d like to order Muhammad Ali: Kinshasa 1974, it is available now.  (I will get a small percentage of each sale made using the link.)

Winston Churchill – The Things I Just Learned

I don’t know as much about Winston Churchill as I’d like.  Sure, I know he was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom during World War II, but aside from a few quotes and broad strokes about his life, I don’t know much else.  That’s why I found Carla Delgado’s 7 Fascinating Facts About Winston Churchill at Mental Floss very interesting.  Before you click over, here are my three favorites and my thoughts on each.

THE ABBREVIATION “OMG” WAS FIRST USED IN A LETTER TO WINSTON CHURCHILL.  I don’t know why I find this piece of trivia so appealing.  I guess because it is so random.  I wonder what possessed John Fisher to use the abbreviation. How did Churchill know what the letters stood for? (Context, I guess.) And why did it take so many decades for the abbreviation to catch on?  OMG – so many questions.

WINSTON CHURCHILL LIVED WITH A MENTAL ILLNESS.  Churchill suffered from “long periods of despair and lethargy” which some have diagnosed as bi-polar disorder.  I’m surprised at the high percentage of “great” people from history who had to overcome things that cripple others.  I guess that is part of what makes them great.

WINSTON CHURCHILL WAS AN HONORARY AMERICAN.  I didn’t know that Churchill’s mother was American and that he was granted honorary citizenship.  I like that fact a lot.  We can always use more good Americans.  ; )

“The Lost Pirate Kingdom” Trailer is Here!

The Lost Pirate Kingdom trailer is below.  Honestly, it doesn’t look great, but there is something about it that makes me want to see the documentary series.  I’m not sure why.  I’m not overly fond of Pirates.  I’ve seen the Johnny Depp movies (most of ’em, anyway… I think).  I guess it is the documentary aspect that appeals to me.  I want to know more about how pirates really were.

The real-life pirates of the Caribbean violently plunder the world’s riches and form a surprisingly egalitarian republic in this documentary series.